September 2010

Thursday -- September 3, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.55     Water Temperature: 82

I scared up two deer yesterday afternoon. I was bush-whacking through the trail at the top of the Island when I heard a crash and saw the white tails of two large deer as they bounded toward the swim dock. I freed myself from the foliage and gave chase. I ran all the way to the other side of the Island and searched for half an hour but I never got another glimpse of them.

Good night of fishing on Tuesday. The water was clear and I caught half a dozen bass in two hours. While we were paddling up stream we saw hundreds of dragon flies. These were the big dragon flies and they looked like squadrons of fighter jets as the zoomed close past our heads.

We actually saw some other humans while we were out, which is pretty rare. Four guys were obviously getting set up for a night of fishing on Rupperts. They had a big fire going and they had lots of lines out for catfish. I suppose it isn't a problem to have them there, I just hope they don't leave a ton of trash, which they probably will. I tried to say hello but they did not seem to want to talk to us.

Tuesday -- September 7, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.50     Water Temperature: 78

Wow, what a weekend. It was a perfect weekend to enjoy the Island and many of you members did just that. The weather was exquisite, and with the river so clear and warm, the fishing, boating and swimming were great too. It was awesome to see so many people using the Island, but with the weather like it was, it would be hard to find an excuse not to come down. The bell kept ringing and everyone pitched in to help carry the load. It also helped when members met their guests in the parking lot or ferry landing as opposed to on the Island.

The air is quiet this morning but the passing warblers have been treating us to their wonderful bird songs recently. I also saw a brown creeper and a peregrine falcon.

The Sycamore Regatta was kind of a flop. I'm afraid that people either didn't know about it, or they just didn't understand what it was about. We eventually did manage to have a canoe race around the Island and that was fun. I cooked burgers for the families that were here, and Jane Winer brought some delicious mac'n'cheese, but it was all pretty low key. A big, special "thank you" to Cindy Bertaut for single-handedly organizing and preparing all the games, food and activities. Cindy, you rock!

Wednesday -- September 8, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.43     Water Temperature: 78

The river is really low right now. The rocks are exposed and strained with mud making it look as if our dam has sprung a leak. This is the lowest the river has been since my first September here, eight years ago! Back then it got down to 2.18 and it became necessary to release water from the upriver dams to keep the river at its minimum flow. If this drought keeps up we may have to do the same this year.

I had another first yesterday, which is great because it gives me something new to talk about. I'd seen a deer swimming before, but this time I was out in the water with them. I came around the top of the Island where I spotted three deer, their heads bobbing in the river. It seems they were heading from Sycamore up to Rupperts, I gave chase in my canoe. I was starting to gain on them but then they reached the shallow water and they were able to bound out of reach. The adult female reached the shores of Rupperts first and she stood waiting for her nearly-mature offspring to catch up. Then they all took off, soaking wet, into the underbrush.

Thursday -- September 9, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.35     Water Temperature: 77

There was not much turnout for the meeting last night, maybe because of the Jewish holiday. Six of us had a nice dinner on the Captains float and then we had a good discussion in the clubhouse.

Sunday -- September 12, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.39     Water Temperature: 73

Well, we got a little rain but not enough to pull us out of these extreme low-water conditions. The river got so low(2.2)that it became impossible to pull the ferry up to the dock on the Island. I was forced to put on my waders and commence a dredging operation. I dug into the river bottom for an hour and made things a little better, but if the river continues to fall I'll have to get out there again. Its easier to dredge the river bottom than it is to fight it with the ferry. Its better to fix than to fight.

The clubhouse has become a death trap for the carolina wrens. I found another carcass in there yesterday. I think they are getting in through a hole that was made by a squirrel last fall. I'll patch that hole today and maybe the carnage will be over.

Tuesday -- September 14, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.53     Water Temperature: 73

There was a dam release up at Randolf-Jennings Dam back on the 10th of this month. They were forced to do the release in order to keep the river at its minimum flow requirements. It takes nine days for the release to reach us, so by Sunday we may see its effects here on the Island. Maybe this means that I won't have to do any more dredging.

There was a recreational/whitewater release scheduled for the Savage River Dam but that was canceled, maybe they need to conserve that release in case we need the water later this month.

I saw a rose-breasted grosbeak, it wasn't the striking male but a cool sighting all the same. It must be migration time.

The jewel weed, which are all over the Island, are at their peak right now. They are over five feet tall and most are sporting over two dozen yellow flowers each. The native bees are covered with white pollen as they busy themselves crawling in and out of all the flowers, once I saw a flower fall from a plant with a bee still inside! Soon the fruit will be ripe and we can see how this plant got its other name, touch-me-not. There are also a few of the orange, or spotted jewel weeds here too. they don't seem to grow nearly as tall.

Thursday -- September 23, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.56     Water Temperature: 74

Happy equinox, the ending of another fabulous summer on the Island. We will also have a full moon on the river tonight.

I guess our great egrets knew that the summer was ending. The sixteen of them that were roosting nearby are now gone. Last week they had moved from their normal roosting tree and were gathering across the river in Virginia. That must have been a precursor to their departure because now they are nowhere in sight.

The snakes are on the move again too. Maybe they are looking for suitable winters quarters because I caught one in the field by the hammock and another big blackie crawling into the screen porch.

I bought a motion-detector camera so I can try to catch the deer on the Island at night, but so far no luck.

Big news, they have repaired the towpath near us where it was washed out over by the warning sign. This is good news for us since it allows us to drive on the towpath to the Island from lock five rather than having to drive all the way down from lock ten. For years this section has been washed out and was too narrow and scary to drive on.

I heard that there are plans to eventually clear all the trees and brush from the canal and I noticed that some of the locks upstream are being repaired as well. This is all great news, I hope they have our old metal bridge on their repair list too.

If people are interested in helping the C and O Canal I suggest that they get involved with The Canal Trust. They seem to have a good vision and are making things happen on the canal.

Monday -- September 27, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.93     Water Temperature: 74

The river had been running at below 2.5 feet for over a month, so this sudden jump up to 2.93 is noticeable.

It looks like this might spell the beginning of the end. The heavy rain and high water are going to ruin the best fishing and the best swimming of the year. I know we need the rain but I wish I had done more fishing and swimming while the getting was good.

I just read a couple of great stories about the Island, from the old days. If you haven't read the articles about the history of the club, you really should. There is a story from 1923 about paddling from Sycamore Island all the way up to Great Falls. I suppose it was done in a wood and canvas boat, he drank from springs along the river, and he mentions the amusement park that was there from 1906-1934. He also mentions a rope bridge over the falls on the Maryland side. That must have been scary, crossing over the fish ladder on a rope bridge!

Wednesday -- September 29, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.63     Water Temperature: 74

There is a storm on the way up the coast. It's not a real strong storm but chances are that it will dump a lot of rain on us. Right now they are predicting the river to rise up to 5.2 feet by Saturday, that's a big jump from where we are now. Please check the river levels before you come down. Anything over five feet at the Little Falls gage and the ferry will be closed.